Eighteen feature films, more than 40 major characters, 10 years of stories, six Infinity Stones: There’s a lot going on in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It may seem daunting to try and recall all that’s happened before the premiere of Avengers: Infinity War (the last chapter in this phase of the MCU), and if you’re a normal person, you likely don’t have time to sit through a 36-hour marathon. So what do you really need to know?
Never fear, true believer, for here comes my mother, Lee, to the rescue! Hooked on the films while watching them with me as I convalesced from surgery five years ago, she quickly became a Marvel devotee, seeing most of the films in theaters after that. The following is her recollection of the major events in each (minus the three movies she missed — she gives her best guess on those based on seeing the trailers). This may not be the resource for your MCU knowledge, but it is a resource! Take it away, Mom:
Iron Man (2008)
Oh, lordy. Okay, first of all, Iron Man is a rich playboy type guy. He’s not the Charlie Sheen actor. He’s the other actor. So Iron Man has a very fancy place with a lot of fancy cars. He’s got a secretary named Penny? No. Pennywise? No. No, that’s the clown from It, oh God. Pepper! I knew it was something like that. I know there was a big explosion in his garage. Uh… I don’t know how he became Iron Man. Too many iron pills. I don’t know. And there was a bad guy. Oh! Robert Downey Jr [is Iron Man]. So now I remember that he was captured and imprisoned in the cave with that other guy, and he had to escape, and he made the iron suit! And when he came out, I think he had a sidekick, I think in the Air Force? Colonel? And then the bad guys came. [And there was] somebody like the guy from, um… what was the name of that, uh, Shield? The guy with the eye. Hmm.
The Incredible Hulk (2008)
Did I see it? Well, I remember that it was the guy that had the brain tumor. That plays the Hulk. In real life he had a brain tumor. I swear! Ohhhh, I’m talking about the guy in the other movies. The guy in this movie, I don’t remember who played the Hulk in this movie. Except that he’s a depressed, tortured individual. Are you sure I saw this movie? Honest to gosh, I blanked this movie out.
Iron Man 2 (2010)
Tony! Tony… Stark [is his name]. Is this the one where the garage blew up? I don’t know one from the other. The bad Iron Man. He becomes an Iron Man in his own suit? Well he’s not an Iron Man, I guess he’s an electric man. There’s Fury. There’s the Black Widow. I remember that the Colonel’s still in there. He looks different. I think that’s all.
All right, he comes down in the field with his hammer. And there’s a big circle all around. He comes looking for his hammer! Because the bad brother sent it there? No. He’s from… uh… Odin. They live in the sky. They get there by a bridge, a big bridge. Asgar! Wait, Asgard. He needs to learn, I dunno, to be worthy. He meets some girl on the farm? Natalie Wood. I mean, uh, Natalie Portman. She was on the farm. The house, in New Mexico. Was she an artist? Oh, she can mind-read? Oh, she’s a scientist. Now, does the bad brother Loki come into this? Yes, he’s bad. I do remember that he was in there, and that Loki has a sibling rivalry and something going on with Thor, and he gets everything messed up. Bye-bye Loki. But he comes back!
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
Captain America, poor Captain America. The Hydra head tries to get ‘em. But what happens is that, he is a soldier but he’s a little wimp, he’s a little skinny guy. And he gets bullied. It’s like, oh, during the war, I’m gonna say in the ‘30s? ‘40s? Anyway, the scientists get him. And they inject him with stuff. And he becomes this, like, super human being. Like he gets all buff and handsome. So anyway, after he gets injected with the stuff and becomes a super soldier… he’s not in the elevator yet. Well, the Hydra people are after him. It’s World War II. He’s gotta go fight. And he has a love interest. She worked for the spies. She’s kinda like, she doesn’t get the jobs, all the men get the jobs. [And he fights with] his pal Buffy? The slayer? No, Bumpy. Starts with a B! He falls off the train. Buddy? Bucky! I was so close. Oh, he crashes in the plane, and says goodbye to his love. He crashes into an iceberg, into the ice. It’s very sad.
The Avengers (2012)
OK, Loki’s creating all kinds of havoc. So Thor’s on the warpath to get him. Loki’s killing people. Blowing things up. He wants to be the ruler. The Avengers are: Thor, the Widow, Iron Man, Green Guy — The Hulk — the guy with the arrows… something Hawk. Hawk Guy. Captain America, of course. The Avengers win. The mastermind behind it all… the very bad guy. Purple. I don’t know his name, but he’s very bad. Thanos!
Iron Man 3 (2013)
Thor: The Dark World (2013)
Jane decides to make a trip to Asgard. And they’re gonna get married and everything. Thor brings her. She finds something in a slab. Red. Is this the one where Loki gets locked in the cage? Because he did bad things. Jane finds a red Infinity Stone, they go up to Asgard, he’s in love with her but there’s too much trouble, so he has to go back to Earth. Just lots of fighting and lots of, you know, the good guys win. The big ships in London and the thing came down right in the middle there… that was cool. That was a good one. [There’s the guy] that shows up later, he has all the people in the cages in his place. The Collector.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Well, he’s out of the ice, but he still looks like he was in nineteen forty-whatever. And he gets in the elevator with his shield, and the bad guys all come in. Hydra? They’re after him. Oh yeah, Robert Redford turns out to be a bad guy. He’s in there with all the glass, that glass area. When Captain America goes to leave, he’s in the elevator, the bad guys are surrounding him, but: piece of cake. He just wipes them out, because he knows it’s coming. He gives you that look. Then, uh… then lots of fighting. I think the Black Widow comes. And… Captain something? Birdman? Falcon! And he flies, and he backs him up. And Bucky is all tormented, he’s not himself. He thinks that Captain America’s his enemy. Because he has no arm. Hydra’s manipulating him, they’ve been making him super strong. Bucky and Captain America fight, and he saves Captain America from drowning. Nick Fury shows up to kill Robert Redford.
Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014)
The Guardians are all a bunch of misfits, and the main guy has great taste in music. Or, his mother did. But what happens is, he’s a little kid, his mom is dying of cancer, he can’t bear to be in the room with her because she’s dying. But she makes this tape of great music for him, a cassette tape and he has that and he keeps it with him always. And it starts off with him flying around this weird little planet and he’s after a relic. And while he’s getting it he gets attacked by these other guys that also want the relic, and great music plays. He gets away, and then somehow the green lady comes in. She’s a green lady. And then the little raccoon comes in. And then Groot. He’s a tree. [He says] “That’s Groot.” “I’m Groot.” And [he’s] played by the fighting guy. Anyway, at one point they all end up in jail. It’s very funny, because then they have to break out, and he just wants his tape back, because the bad guy took the tape. Rocket steals a guy’s leg even though he didn’t need it. Groot pushes the wrong button, and they all have to quick get to the ship, and they all escape. And then the bad guys are chasing after him. One of the bad guys really isn’t a bad guy, it’s really a guy that loves him that he used to steal for… kinda blueish. And there’s a bad guy with the thing over his face… “Bad Face.” They go to the Collector. There’s a big fight.
Avengers: Age Of Ultron (2015)
There’s so many of them, jeez. Is this the one with the city up in the air? They gotta save the city, the city’s up in the air! Some bad guy came and tore it off. Black Widow wants a relationship [with Hulk], I don’t think he wants her at this point, cause he’s tortured. And Hawkeye was at the farm with his arrows, his wife and kids, but he has to go fight with the others. Ultron is like a robot, Iron Man made him. The twins are in this, the one girl can do stuff with her hands, and the guy goes invisible real fast. He’s superfast. They all end up at this round thing at the end. And somebody dies — the fast guy. The twin is devastated. I didn’t like that the fast guy died. He wasn’t fast enough. And there was something about this other guy who comes and lifts the hammer, and Thor is shocked. Spider-Man! No. Oh, the Vision. He’s almost robot-looking too.
Very cute little actor, I forget his name, but he’s very good as the Ant-Man. He’s funny. Well, the scientist made him small. He’s not too crazy about being the size of an ant. And the girl, she helps him, because she’s kind of a scientist too. And the bad guy, he tries to be a kind of Ant-Man… a bee? And they fight in the daughter’s bedroom. Big battle, but he wins. And the cops come, outside.
Captain America: Civil War (2016)
They all get mad at Captain America. Because of something. So the politicians are mad at all the Avengers, they think they’re too risky. They wanna make rules that they have to follow. I think Tony likes [the rules]. That’s how they get fighting amongst themselves. I think the Widow was with Captain America. I think maybe the Birdman and Hawkeye [too]. Ant-Man, he was funny. I remember Spider-Man was in there, too. Bucky did something bad, he killed someone. And so, then they fight. Black Panther — I don’t know what he’s doing — oh, that’s when his dad dies.
Doctor Strange (2016) (based on the trailer)
Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
Oh yeah, the gold people. And they get accused of stealing, so now they’re chasing them all across the universe. The blue girl is in there, and she’s mad. She’s got a big axe to grind with the sister, because they each think the other one had it worse with the dad — Thanos. Peter’s dad is Kurt Russell, and then he goes to live with them for a while. Things went well at first but then they go very bad, because it turns out his dad is wacko. He’s got a whole well of skeletons. He’s like a god, he had come down to earth to meet the mother, and that’s how he ended up with these powers, because he wasn’t supposed to be down there fooling around with the mother. Anyway, in the end, he ends up in a big hole with Rocket. They have to get rescued, and he has to defeat the father. And all his buddies help. Oh, and his fake father who actually did love him dies. That was very sad, actually. I did cry.
Spider-Man: Homecoming (2016) (based on the trailer)
I do wanna see this. Well, it’s a coming-of-age story of a shy young man coming into his own, gonna become a man and do the right thing and fight the bad guys. And the bad guy looked like the guy from Mr. Mom. And he wants to be an Avenger.
Thor: Ragnarok (2016) (based on the trailer)
I really wanted to see this one, too. That was Jeff Goldblum? As a bad guy? I have to see this. Obviously Antler Lady’s the bad lady. She wants to destroy Asgard. Thor has to enlist Loki, his misbehaving brother, to join forces to fight Antler Lady. And Hulk has become friends with him since they had a nice little fight. A little wrestle, a little tussle, and they decided to become friends. And they have to work together.
Black Panther (2018)
It started off where they were on a basketball court, and the next thing you know there’s a room where somebody’s getting killed even though he wasn’t supposed to, but it was hard because the stupid idiots in the theater were standing in front of me and I couldn’t see what was going on. Later on it gets explained in the movie. Anyway, Black Panther, he wants to protect his secret city… Pantherville, I dunno… Wakanda. But it’s threatened because other people think they should share their power to help everywhere else. And he has a love interest, she’s also out there doing good stuff. And his sister is like Dr. No. Oh no, like Q, the guy in Bond, that makes all the gadgets. Anyway, this guy challenges him to be the ruler, somehow he wins and throws Panther over the falls. But he gets rescued by the other guy I like in the mountain, they save him. Then when the bad guy is in charge of being the Panther and doing all kinds of bad things, then they bring back the real Panther with the guy in the mountain, and they overthrow the bad Panther. And the father’s in heaven because he goes to talk to him. But there’s also that scene that got messed up by the people in the theater.
Avengers: Infinity War (2018) (predictions)
They’re gonna get the whole gang back together. They must have to fight for those stones. They must have to put those stones back together from the Collector, from the bad guys. They must have to fight the biggest villains, which is probably the head villain, that Thanos guy. Loki might create more mischief. He’s not always a good guy. And the green lady’s sister might create trouble. The Guardians will be there. Captain America will do something heroic. Iron Man will fly. Maybe the Hulk and Black Widow get together. And maybe the Black Panther gets together with his girl. Well, now it’s starting to sound like a hook-up movie.